Celtics not at crossroads

Rivers won’t sacrifice health for home court

By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / April 24, 2012
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The Celtics spent the first part of practice Monday reviewing video of the Atlanta Hawks, their probable first-round playoff opponent.

Coach Doc Rivers was not overlooking the final two games of the regular season (Miami Tuesday, Milwaukee Thursday), but Rivers is contemplating several possible scenarios as the Celtics await the return of Ray Allen (right ankle), Mickael Pietrus (right knee), Rajon Rondo (back spasms), and Greg Stiemsma (feet).

A further consideration is the possibility of the Celtics overtaking Atlanta for home-court advantage in the first round.

“That’s not even a question for me,’’ Rivers said. “I’m taking rest and health over home court.’’

By clinching the Atlantic Division title, the Celtics (37-27) are locked into the No. 4 seed in the East. But homecourt advantage is determined by record in the NBA. The Hawks (38-26) close the season against the Clippers and Mavericks.

The Celtics juggled several preparations Monday.

“We watched some film of Atlanta, but we would have, anyway, because that was the last team we played,’’ Rivers said. “Now we’ll have a shootaround about Miami. We have two games. We’re going to try to win them both and see what happens.’’

Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, who were rested Friday, will miss one of the final two games, likely the Milwaukee contest. Allen will not play against the Heat, but Pietrus and Rondo could return, according to Rivers.

“That’s the first I’ve heard of it,’’ Pierce said of the possibility of sitting out a game. “As far as I know I’m playing.’’

Pierce also was choosing health over homecourt advantage.

“You want to be healthy first,’’ Pierce said. “We’re definitely a better home team than road team. Going into the playoffs, if everybody’s healthy, we’ve shown we can beat anybody in the Eastern Conference on their home court, so we’ll take health.

“I think it’s a fine line, because you want to stay in a certain rhythm. At the same time, you want to be rested. Everyone knows how grueling, how physical, how tough mentally and physically the playoffs are. So, I think it’s good to be sharp. We want to be as healthy as we can be going into the playoffs.

“Playoffs are going to come quick. There’s a lot of teams that don’t know who they’re going to play. You play your last game Thursday and you have one day to prepare, because you’re going to play Saturday or Sunday. We pretty much know we’re locked in our spot, Atlanta’s locked into their spot, so our preparation is for Atlanta as well as Miami.’’

Rondo has not attempted to practice since landing on his back in a 118-110 loss at New York last Tuesday.

“Hard to tell without contact,’’ Rondo said of his recovery. “It’s sore a little bit. It will be sore for a while, I’m sure.’’

Rondo finished the game against the Knicks, and had 13 points and 13 assists in 39 minutes.

“It was just adrenaline,’’ Rondo said. “Obviously, you get on the plane and sleep in bed and it stiffens up a little bit. I’ll see how I feel. It’s getting better each day, so that’s a good sign.

“Just right now, I don’t think I want to do any contact at the moment. I’ll be able to play. I’ll be fine. It’s just I hit the floor a lot, so I want to be as healthy as possible because I know how I play, I’ll hit the floor.’’

Allen has not fully recovered since being injured during the Celtics’ February road trip.

“It’s just not healing or it’s just not getting better, or it’s getting better slowly,’’ Rivers said. “Until it starts healing, we’re just going to sit him. Ray wants to play and get some rhythm, so if he can play, we’re going to play him.’’

Allen said bone spurs were part of the problem.

“It’s still being a little troublesome, but it’s getting better,’’ Allen said. “I ran today for the first time in a few days on the Alter G [machine], which takes a percentage of your body weight off. I can’t do any more than what my body allows, so just give it time.’’

Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at

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